Category Archives: Referees in the Middle

Referees in the Middle: Steve Dunn

Premier League Career: 1995-2005

First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Aston Villa (23 August 1995)

Final Premier League Match: Fulham 6-0 Norwich City (15 May 2005)

In May 2005, Steve Dunn took charge of his 199th and final Premier League match. It was an afternoon Norwich City supporters would rather forget, as they went down 6-0 at Craven Cottage to Fulham to ensure their relegation from the top-flight.

Dunn would fall just one game short of the magical 200 number. Injury meant he missed the entire 2005-2006 campaign which led to a premature retirement. From Bristol, Mr. Dunn had started refereeing local matches in 1978. He progressed through the ranks and became a linesman in the Football League in 1986. He spent six years running the line before becoming a Football League referee in 1992.

In 1995, he joined the list of Premier League officials and made his debut in the first midweek round of matches, at the same time his colleague Jeff Winter made his top-flight bow. Ugo Ehiogu scored the only goal as Aston Villa won away at Tottenham Hotspur 1-0. His first red card came in January 1996, dismissing Wimbledon’s Mick Harford in a tasty London derby between Wimbledon and Queens Park Rangers. Wimbledon won 2-1 in a match that saw a staggering 10 yellow cards.

603 yellow cards were given out by Dunn during his Premier League career but only 19 red cards, which shows that he did all he could to ensure 22 players finished on the field of play by the full-time whistle. His last red card was actually rescinded by the FA. El-Hadji Diouf was sent off after a silly tangle with Adrian Mutu in a match between Chelsea and Liverpool FC in January 2004 but after Liverpool appealed the decision, it was overturned.

Steve Dunn reached the FIFA list of referees in 1997 and completed six years at this level. He became the first English official to achieve the “double” of appearing on FIFA referees and assistants’ lists. This was a feat that was later matched by fellow colleagues Matt Messias, Steve Bennett and Graham Barber.

His highest-profile appointment came in the 2001 FA Cup final which was the first to be played in Wales. Arsenal dominated but were beaten 2-1 by Liverpool FC as Michael Owen scored twice in the last 10 minutes to ensure the Reds claimed their second trophy of the season. Arsenal fans could complain about a blatant handball on the goal-line in the first half by Stephane Henchoz which was missed by the officials.

He would go onto referee League Cup semi-finals in both 2002 and 2004. His last professional match was West Ham United’s 2-0 win against Ipswich Town in the 2005 Championship play-off semi-final 2nd leg with both goals coming from Bobby Zamora.

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Referees in the Middle: Mark Clattenburg

Premier League Career: 2004-2017

First Premier League Match: Crystal Palace 1-3 Everton (21 August 2004)

Final Premier League Match: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester City (29 April 2017)

In 2017, the Premier League bid farewell to Mark Clattenburg. The 42-year-old from County Durham accepted the opportunity to become the Head of Refereeing for the Football Federation in Saudi Arabia.

A referee since 1990, Clattenburg officiated 292 Premier League matches over a 13-year career in the English top-flight. He flashed the yellow card to players 946 times and showed nearly 50 red cards but his controlling influence on matches made him one of the regulars in some of the league’s most tempestuous and key fixtures. The peak of his career came in 2016, when he took charge of the FA Cup final, UEFA Champions League final and the European Championships final in a space of a few weeks.

He took up refereeing through the rewarding Duke of Edinburgh scheme and three years later, became an assistant referee in the Northern League. He made the National List of Football League refs in 2000 and his first match came that year as Chesterfield beat York City 4-1 in a Division Two clash. He was just 25 at this appointment, breaking several post-war records.

Clattenburg spent the next four years plying his trade in the Football League, often called in to take charge of crucial semi-finals in the play-offs. He was the man in the middle for the 2004 Third Division play-off final between Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town and was promoted to the Select Group of officials later that year.

In August 2004, Mark was given his first Premier League appointment as Everton won 3-1 away at Crystal Palace, awarding the visitors a penalty in this match which was converted by Thomas Gravesen. His first difficult moment came five months later when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a late win at Old Trafford. Pedro Mendes’ goal-bound effort from distance was dropped over the goal-line by Roy Carroll but wasn’t spotted by the linesman. Clattenburg was in a poor position, so couldn’t award the goal as he wasn’t 100% sure it had crossed the line.

He became a FIFA referee in 2006 and even took charge of a testimonial match for Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer on his retirement from playing. His allegiance towards the Magpies’ means he has never refereed a competitive match involving Newcastle United.

Clattenburg has shown the red card over the years on nearly 50 occasions. Some of his key dismissals include:

  • His first red card came on his Premier League debut, with Gary Naysmith dismissed for dragging back Wayne Routledge in Everton’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in August 2004.
  • Everton were on the receiving end in a Merseyside Derby in October 2007 – losing Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville to red cards in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool FC at Goodison Park. David Moyes said afterwards: “The referee has had a very bad day at the office!”
  • Sent off Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata just four minutes into a clash with Arsenal in October 2010 for a professional foul. Arsenal win the match 3-0.
  • Jonny Evans was dismissed in the Manchester Derby of October 2011 for hauling down Mario Balotelli in a goalscoring opportunity. Manchester City take full advantage to beat their local rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford.
  • Dismissed West Bromwich Albion full-back Goran Popov for spitting during a home match with Tottenham Hotspur in February 2013.
  • Awarded Liverpool FC three penalties at Old Trafford in March 2014 and sends Nemanja Vidic off in LFC’s 3-0 win over the reigning champions.
  • Gave two penalties to Leicester City and sends off Manchester United youngster Tyler Blackett during an eight-goal contest between the teams in September 2014.
  • Per Mertesacker saw red in January 2016 as Chelsea win 1-0 at The Emirates Stadium to complete a league double over Arsenal.

In 2008, Clattenburg was appointed as referee for the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Portsmouth but this was later given to Peter Walton after an investigation that led to him missing the majority of the 2008-2009 campaign. He was suspended during the investigation which was looking into alleged debts incurred by companies with which he was connected to. Citing a breach of contract, the referees’ governing body dismissed Clattenburg but he appealed the decision, denying any wrongdoing. The PGMOB reinstated him in February 2009 but back-dated his suspension to eight months meaning he took charge of just one Premier League match all season, the final day encounter at The Etihad Stadium between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers.

He re-established his integrity over the next four seasons, earning the 2012 League Cup final for his rewards and also, took charge of the men’s football final at the 2012 London Olympics when gold medal favourites Brazil were humbled by Mexico 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. Controversy was never that far away though for Mark.

In October 2012, Manchester United ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the domestic season, winning 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Clattenburg sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres during the match and also allowed United’s winner to stand even though Javier Hernandez was clearly in an offside position. After the game, Chelsea accused him of using racist language towards their Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel when he was booked.

The FA took him out of the firing line for a month but cleared him of any wrongdoing nine days after the fixture in west London and charged Mikel with using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour” towards Clattenburg after the match. Mikel was found guilty and received a three-match ban and a £60,000 fine.

In a statement afterwards, he said: “I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”

2016 was Mark’s big break. First, he was appointed to the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. He sent Chris Smalling off in extra-time but Louis van Gaal’s side still prevailed to win 2-1. A week later, he was in Milan to officiate the biggest game in European club football, the final of the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid played city rivals Atletico Madrid and won 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Then, he went to France as one of the English officials at the 2016 European Championships. He was given the showpiece final gig which saw hosts France shocked 1-0 by Portugal, again after an extra-time conclusion.

Never one to accept the appointments quietly, he had the logos of the UEFA Champions League and the 2016 UEFA Euros tattooed on his arm to remember the final of the two competitions that he officiated in a few months later.

In February 2017, it was confirmed that he was to leave his post as a Premier League official to educate younger referees in Saudi Arabia. Replacing another huge figure in Howard Webb, the PGMOL said in a statement: “Mark is a talented referee; he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grassroots of the game.

His final top-flight match in this country was a fairly uneventful Midlands Derby in April 2017 between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City which Leicester won 1-0 thanks to a Jamie Vardy goal. Even though he isn’t in the middle in England, he has still made headlines recently from infidelity allegations about his love life to admitting that he let Tottenham Hotspur self-destruct at Stamford Bridge in May 2016 on the night where their 2-2 draw handed the title to 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City.

However, he is one of the best referees we’ve seen in the Premier League and his achievements in the game can’t be ignored despite some of the controversy.

Referees in the Middle: Jeff Winter

Premier League Career: 1995-2004

First Premier League Match: Nottingham Forest 0-0 Chelsea (23 August 1995)

Final Premier League Match: Charlton Athletic 2-1 Southampton (15 May 2004)

On average, Jeff Winter would officiate 20 Premier League matches a season and his no-nonsense approach to the game made him one of the leading officials in the country in his prime.

During his Premier League career, which lasted nine seasons, Winter took charge of 185 Premier League matches. He handed out 535 yellow cards, awarded 27 penalties and dished out the red card on 27 occasions too.

Manchester City’s Richard Edghill was the first victim of a red card from Jeff Winter. He picked up two bookable offences to see the tunnel earlier than his Manchester City teammates in a 3-1 reverse to Newcastle United in September 1995.

Other notable Premier League red cards he gave out included:

  • Sent off Blackburn Rovers debutant Garry Flitcroft inside of three minutes in a 3-0 home defeat to Everton in March 1996.
  • Dismissed Roy Keane in October 1996 in the first half as Manchester United crumbled away at Southampton, losing 6-3.
  • Gave Franck Leboeuf his marching orders after a petulant stamp on Harry Kewell as Chelsea went down 2-0 at home to Leeds United in December 1999.
  • John Hartson saw red for foul and abusive language in Wimbledon’s damaging 3-0 loss to Bradford City in April 2000; a result that played a crucial role in the “Crazy Gang’s” relegation from the top-flight in 1999-2000.
  • Sent off Christian Ziege in the closing stages of Spurs’ entertaining 3-2 win at Manchester City in December 2003. This turned out to be the last time Jeff Winter would show a red card in a Premier League match.

Two of Winter’s hardest Premier League games came in 2001. In August, he showed nine yellow cards and sent off both Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills for two bookable offences in the match between Arsenal and Leeds United at Highbury. Despite finishing with nine men, Leeds held on to a 2-1 victory.

Four months earlier, he made several dubious calls during a pulsating Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park. Winter awarded two controversial penalties, booked 11 players and harshly sent Igor Biscan off in a performance which was questionable to say the least.

His last match in professional football was the 2004 FA Cup final as Manchester United saw off First Division outfit Millwall 3-0 in the showpiece event.

After retirement, Winter appeared as a referee in the revived BBC programme ‘Superstars’ and became an official in Masters Football indoor tournaments. He has worked on radio from TFM Radio on Teeside, and also has a book out called ‘WHO’S THE B*****D IN THE BLACK? CONFESSIONS OF A PREMIERSHIP REFEREE’

Current Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce once said this of Winter: “He drives me nuts. An absolute prat – and you can print that as well.”

However, he did his job very well and won plenty of respect too.

Referees in the Middle: Rob Styles

Premier League Career: 2000-2009

First Premier League Match: West Ham United 0-1 Leicester City (23 August 2000)

Final Premier League Match: Chelsea 2-0 Blackburn Rovers (17 May 2009)

In nine seasons of top-flight officiating, Rob Styles took charge of 212 Premier League matches. He was one of the most controversial officials in the Premier League era and never shied away from annoying supporters and managers with some of his key decisions.

Styles began refereeing in 1987 and nine years later, was appointed to the National list. He started to make his breakthrough at the start of the millennium, taking charge of the Second Division play-off final between Gillingham and Wigan Athletic. He was also the fourth official in 2000 at both the FA Trophy and LDV Vans Trophy finals.

In the same year, he was promoted to the Premier League officiating list and his first game came in the second round of matches in the 2000-2001 season. For the record, Darren Eadie scored the only goal as Leicester City won 1-0 at Upton Park against West Ham United. In the same game, West Ham’s Igor Stimac was sent off.

He became a FIFA referee in 2002 and three years later, was in-charge for the 2005 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United. He sent off Jose Antonio Reyes in the closing stages of extra-time before the match went to penalties, won ultimately by Arsenal.

Based in Waterlooville, Styles showed the yellow card to offending players a whopping 689 times. He gave 57 penalties, including 11 in the 2007-2008 campaign alone. The lowest moment of his career came in August 2007 when he put in a comical display at Anfield. He awarded Chelsea a penalty in the second half when adjudging Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda, even though the ball was nowhere near Malouda and replays showed no contact between the players. Frank Lampard converted the spot-kick, earning Chelsea a point and leaving Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez generally baffled by the decision.

He booked nine players on that afternoon and was at the centre of another talking point when he appeared to show a yellow card to both John Terry and Michael Essien, who had been cautioned earlier in the match. He later clarified that only Terry was booked in the incident (shown below).

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard piled the pressure on the embattled ref afterwards, telling the Evening Standard: “The referee didn’t play well. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and I thought he eventually cracked. I hope he apologises. When players make mistakes they have to come out and say sorry so we’ll see what he has to say.”

Styles later telephoned Benitez to apologise for his cock-up but Keith Hackett confirmed shortly afterwards that he would be dropped for the next round of Premier League matches. Ultimately, it would be the beginning of the end for his career.

In January 2009, he dismissed West Bromwich Albion’s Paul Robinson against Manchester United in a game where the visitors’ cruised to a 5-0 victory. However, the FA elected to rescind the red card given in the match for a challenge on Ji-Sung Park. He felt any support from the governing body was gone after this escapade and although he carried on until the end of the season, the zest was gone.

In the summer of 2009, Styles decided enough was enough and quit refereeing. Graham Poll wrote in his Daily Mail column: “He cared deeply about his refereeing; dedicating himself to serving the game he loves. However, the fact that the majority of the football-watching public will merely shrug their shoulders in indifference at this news or say ‘Good’ proves the lack of understanding of the modern referee.”

Referees in the Middle: Graham Barber

Premier League Career: 1996-2004

First Premier League Match: Nottingham Forest 1-4 Sunderland (21 August 1996)

Final Premier League Match: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Fulham (15 May 2004)

One of the most familiar referees in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Graham Barber took charge of 169 Premier League matches during his excellent top-flight career. He showed no messing when it came to getting out his notebook, dishing out 624 yellow cards during his Premier League spell. That’s an average of nearly four yellow cards per match.

Barber’s first appointment to a Premier League came in August 1996 as Sunderland ran riot at The City Ground, beating Nottingham Forest 4-1 to record their first Premier League victory. His first red card was handed out to the Arsenal skipper Tony Adams for bringing down Newcastle’s Alan Shearer in a goalscoring opportunity position during a match in November 1996.

Among his other red card victims over the years were Nicky Butt in a 3-0 defeat for Manchester United at Highbury in September 1998. He also sent off Andy Cole in a Red Devils’ 3-2 victory at Anfield in September 1999 and Gareth Barry for foul and abusive language on the opening weekend of the 2003-2004 season when Portsmouth saw off Aston Villa 2-1.

Graham’s professionalism was rarely called into question. His biggest error of judgement came in a Premier League game between Sunderland and Liverpool FC in February 2001. Sunderland’s Stanislav Varga took out Liverpool FC midfielder Gary McAllister as the veteran bared down on-goal. Whilst Barber gave the spot-kick which was duly converted, he failed to send Varga off in the mayhem that followed his decision. The FA gave him a severe reprimand for failing to follow the letter of the law.

Based in Tring in Hertfordshire, he was close pals with Graham Poll and like his namesake, was privileged to take charge of some showpiece occasions. He controlled the 1999 Charity Shield which Arsenal won against Manchester United and the Gunners’ FA Cup final victory over Southampton four years later.

He also took charge of the 2002 Division One play-off final in Cardiff when Birmingham City defeated Norwich City on penalties and the 2003 UEFA Super Cup Final which saw Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan beat FC Porto, managed by a certain Jose Mourinho.

Two years before the standard FA retirement age, Barber decided to retire at the end of the 2003-2004 campaign. His final match was on the last day of that Premier League season as Fulham achieved a 2-0 away victory at Bolton Wanderers.

He moved to Spain soon after his retirement with his family and is now the CEO of Europa Networks.

Referees in the Middle: Robbie Hart

Premier League Career: 1992-1996

First Premier League Match: Wimbledon 0-1 Ipswich Town (18 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Everton 1-0 Aston Villa (5 May 1996)

Taking control of 79 matches in the first four seasons of the Premier League, Robbie Hart was an official who would always try to allow games to flow. He was an unfortunate victim of the stricter guidelines put in force after the 1994 World Cup which meant there was a flurry of red cards in the opening weeks of the 1994-1995 Premier League season.

This is shown by his red card record. He only gave the strictest of punishments eight times in his four-year Premier League spell and didn’t hand out a red card until his 21st top-flight match in the new era. The unfortunate victim of this was Dennis Wise who was given a straight red card in the 44th minute of Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham United in October 1993.

Hart reached the Football League Linesmen’s list at the age of 29 in 1977. However, he took another nine seasons to gain promotion to the Referees List. He became further established by taking charge of some key cup matches in this period too. This included a 1995 FA Cup semi-final between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur and the 1996 League Cup final which saw Aston Villa dispatch Leeds United fairly convincingly 3-0.

Hart’s most high-profile Premier League match was the dramatic game in May 1994 between Everton and Wimbledon at Goodison Park. He gave two penalties that afternoon, both involving Anders Limpar. The first was routine as the Swedish winger blatantly handballed in his own penalty area. The second came when Limpar went down in the Wimbledon box under an outstretched leg from Peter Fear. Hart gave a penalty which started the Everton fightback that day and preserved their Premier League status. Limpar has admitted since that he dived in desperation after his earlier error. Sadly, Hart was conned big time by the ex-Arsenal midfielder.

He retired at the end of the 1995-1996 campaign at the age of 46 and would spend the next 15 seasons as an assessor for upcoming referees.

Referees in the Middle: Peter Foakes

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 Sheffield United (22 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Oldham Athletic 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday (30 April 1994)

From Clacton-in-Sea in Essex, teacher Peter Foakes was a referee in the first two seasons of Premier League football, taking charge of 21 matches between 1992 and 1994. Five players were sent off by Mr. Foakes who was 60 when he tragically died in 2006.

He made the referees’ list in 1987, just three years after starting out as a linesman. He was a regular official in the old First Division so it was no surprise that he was on the list of referees for the inaugural Premier League season in 1992.

After an uneventful debut Premier League season, the 1993-1994 campaign was far more dramatic for Foakes. He awarded seven penalties in his 13 games that season including three spot-kicks in Southampton’s 4-2 victory over Liverpool FC in February 1994. In Blackburn’s 2-1 victory over Sheffield United a month earlier at Bramwall Lane, he dished out five yellow cards and sent off both Carl Bradshaw and Alan Cork for the home side.

However, he was approaching retirement age and was not included on the reduced Premier League list of referees for season 1994-1995. He reverted back to the Football League for his final season and took charge of two matches at Wembley Stadium. First, he was in the middle when Birmingham City beat Carlisle United in the Auto Windscreens Shield final when Paul Tait scored the winning goal. It was the first time a “sudden death” goal in extra-time was scored to settled an English cup final.

His final game was the 1995 First Division play-off final as Bolton Wanderers came from 2-0 down to beat Reading 4-3 after extra-time. After retirement, he continued to teach, mainly in maths and became one of the Football League’s regional coordinators of refereeing. In September 2006, he suffered a sudden heart attack and died at the age of 60.

The legacy of his family continues on the sporting side to this day. His son Ben Foakes was recently part of the England Test cricket squad the surrendered the Ashes to Australia.

Referees in the Middle: Lee Probert

Premier League Career: 2007-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Sheffield United 1-1 Portsmouth (13 January 2007)

As of Boxing Day 2017, Lee Probert has taken charge of 157 Premier League matches and been a top-flight referee for a decade. He has shown nearly 30 red cards in that time but his first dismissal wasn’t until his fourth season at this level when two players were dismissed in a bruising encounter between Everton and Aston Villa in October 2009. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Carlos Cuellar were both shown red in the closing stages of the 1-1 draw that afternoon at Goodison Park.

Probert was born in South Gloucestershire but he is associated with the Wiltshire Football Association and is based there nowadays. He started refereeing in the local leagues and south tier of the Conference in 1986 and it was a slow start in terms of progress. Lee didn’t become a Football League referee until 2003.

His first Premier League appointment was in January 2007 as Sheffield United and Portsmouth played out a 1-1 draw. He did very well in the match and in the summer of 2007, Probert was promoted to the Select Group, meaning he would take control of more games in the Premier League.

One of his most controversial incidents occurred as a fourth official in 2009 when Manchester United played Arsenal at Old Trafford. The Gunners’ were denied a late goal by an offside flag which would have earned them a point. In his sheer frustration, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger kicked a water bottle and Probert reported the incident to the referee on the day, Mike Dean. Dean sent Wenger to the stands.

LMA Chief Richard Bevan was unimpressed, saying two days later: “Lee Probert totally failed to manage the situation and created a needless pressure point taking the focus away from the pitch in a big event with only a minute to go.”

Probert was censured and an apology was sent to Wenger by the Premier League.

Five years later, he was given the FA Cup final between the Gunners’ and Hull City which Arsenal won 3-2 after extra-time to end their nine-year trophy famine.

A leg injury meant he missed the entire 2015-2016 season and despite returning to the middle in August 2016, he didn’t take charge of another game in the top-flight until Watford’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland in April 2017. That was his first Premier League appointment in nearly two years.

He has been more of a regular figure this season and as he is 45 at the moment, Lee Probert should remain a top-flight referee for many more campaigns going forwards.

Referees in the Middle: Andre Marriner

Premier League Career: 2004-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Charlton Athletic 4-0 Norwich City (13 November 2004)

Andre Marriner has proven time and again that he is a solid referee who often produces consistently strong performances. Arsenal fans though might not agree with this viewpoint!

Based in the West Midlands, he began refereeing in 1992 by being in the right place when a referee who was meant to be covering a match in his local area failed to show! Marriner was appointed to the Football League list of officials in 2003 and just over a year later, made his Premier League debut in the middle when Charlton Athletic defeated Norwich City 4-0 in November 2004.

Marriner’s early progression was impressive. He was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2005 and three years later, he was invited by FIFA to take charge of international matches. Three major finals have come his way within the last decade. First, he took charge of the 2010 Championship play-off final which saw Blackpool edge out Cardiff City 3-2. Marriner was widely praised for his performance in this match which concluded without a single yellow or red card being shown.

Next up was the biggest honour for an English referee – the FA Cup final. It was Marriner’s turn in 2013, sending off Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta for two bookable offences moments before Ben Watson’s stoppage-time header won the cup for Wigan Athletic. In 2017, he was the chosen appointment for the EFL Cup final, won by Manchester United against Southampton although the Saints were denied a goal by a dodgy offside call in the first half.

As of December 2017, Marriner has officiated 266 matches in the Premier League, producing 870 yellow and 50 red cards. The first dismissal was dished out to Manchester City’s Stephen Jordan in a 1-0 defeat away at Everton in February 2006.

As mentioned earlier, Arsenal fans must always get the shivers when they see Marriner’s name against one of their fixtures. History can sometimes dictate preferred referees for supporters and Marriner wouldn’t be very high on that list with Gunners’ fans. First, in a fixture between the Londoners and Liverpool FC in April 2011, he awarded the latest spot-kick in Premier League history when Emmanuel Eboue clumsily bundled down Lucas in the penalty area. Dirk Kuyt converted the penalty in the 102nd minute which still stands today as the league’s latest-ever goal. That earned a 1-1 draw for Liverpool, who had conceded a penalty of their own only moments earlier that had been converted by Robin van Persie. It also drew an angry exchange between the managers, with Arsene Wenger refusing to shake hands with Kenny Dalglish.

Three years later, Arsenal were at the centre of an unbelievable case of mistaken identity in Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the club. They were already trailing Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge when Eden Hazard’s shot was handled on the goal-line. A penalty was correctly awarded and believing Hazard’s strike was heading in, which was debatable, he sent off the culprit which in his eyes was Kieran Gibbs. However, he had just dismissed the wrong player! The guilty party was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who even insisted to Marriner it was he who committed the offence and should go for an early shower. Despite this, it was Gibbs who would walk down the tunnel through no fault of his own.

A statement was later released through the PGMOL: “Whilst this was a difficult decision, Andre is disappointed that he failed to identify the correct player. He expressed his disappointment to Arsenal when he was made aware of the issue.”

Despite this harrowing mistake, Andre Marriner remains one of the more reliable refs in the top-flight and is often considered to be strong enough to take charge of some of the most intense fixtures in the Premier League.

Referees in the Middle: David Allison

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Middlesbrough 4-1 Leeds United (22 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Wimbledon 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 April 1994)

David Allison was one of the referees in the very first season of the Premier League. By the time the competition had been formed in 1992, he had already being part of the profession for 12 years, taking charge of his first Football League match in 1980.

When he was promoted to the referees’ list at the age of just 31, some thought he was too young to handle the pressure of top-flight matches which in the 1980s were often played on slow, bumpy pitches at a more aggressive tempo. However, he was seen as a steady pair of hands to control these games. With more experience and maturity, he was becoming one of the best and most trusted officials in the Football League.

By the end of the 1980s, he was often the man given responsibility to handle the testing but enjoyable Manchester and Merseyside derbies. Despite this widespread praise, he was overlooked for the showpiece FA Cup final. David’s most senior appointment in cup football was taking charge of a League Cup semi-final first leg in 1992 between Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur.

His first Premier League appointment was newly-promoted Middlesbrough’s surprising 4-1 home win over defending champions Leeds United. Allison would remain on the Premier League’s officiating list for the first two seasons of the new era in English football, controlling 33 matches.  In 1994, the league decided to move to a smaller list of officials who would control its matches. It was a big surprise to see him not selected to continue duties in the top-flight.

This was a crushing disappointment for David but he didn’t pack up his whistle until the end of the 1996-1997 season after returning to Football League duty for another three campaigns. This included taking charge of the 1996 First Division play-off final between Leicester City and Crystal Palace when Steve Claridge scored with practically the last kick of the match to take Leicester back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking.

In total, he controlled 463 matches in English football and remained in the game after retirement as a referees’ coach. In 2007, he was appointed National Group Manager in charge of the 57 top referees for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) and is also the Training Officer for the Lancaster & Morecambe Referees’ Society.

Referees in the Middle: Mike Jones

Premier League Career: 2008-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Hull City 0-5 Wigan Athletic (30 August 2008)

Mike Jones is approaching the landmark of 200 games refereed in the Premier League. He is one of the more modern refs, having only begun his referee career two decades ago. The 49-year-old from Cheshire’s first match in the Football League was a Division Two clash between Mansfield Town and Hull City in August 1997.

After 11 seasons in the Football League, Jones was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2008, allowing him the opportunity to take control of Premier League matches. His first match in the top-flight was Wigan Athletic’s resounding 5-0 victory away at Hull City in August 2008. That still remains Wigan’s biggest Premier League victory.

Big finals haven’t come the way of Mike Jones yet. His most high-profile appointment was the 2007 League Two play-off final, sending off Marc Tierney of Shrewsbury Town in their 3-1 loss to Bristol Rovers. Tierney became the second player to be sent off at the new Wembley after its significant redevelopment.

Some like the way he attempts to allow games to flow. Others don’t. Former top-flight referee Keith Hackett was especially critical in 2016, saying in an article for the Daily Telegraph: “Too soft and inconsistent to be a referee at this level.”

The most embarrassing moment of Mike’s Premier League career came in October 2009 when he was involved in one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history. Sunderland were playing Liverpool FC and took the lead early on at the Stadium of Light, courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent. Replays showed Bent’s shot took a deflection off a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch by visiting supporters before kick-off! The goal was allowed to stand and Sunderland won the match 1-0. Jones was demoted for a week from Premier League duty and the beach ball eventually ended up being an exhibit at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

However, he is still going strong and I would expect him to be part of the Premier League refereeing fraternity for some time to come.

Referees in the Middle: Matt Messias

Premier League Career: 2000-2005

First Premier League Match: Derby County 1-0 Coventry City (16 December 2000)

Final Premier League Match: Portsmouth 1-1 Bolton Wanderers (7 May 2005)

Matt Messias first took up refereeing in 1982 whilst he was still trying to play the game. In the end, officiating would be his way into professional football and he spent five years on the Premier League referees’ list.

Injury would put paid to his playing career. A recurrent cartilage problem in 1984 forced him to look at the other alternative of refereeing. He first took charge of games in the York and District Saturday League before progressing to the Northern Counties East League. This was a weekend job for Messias. During the week, he was a PE teacher at Filey School in Yorkshire.

He continued to climb the ladder as the 1980s ended and he made the assistant referees’ list in 1991 for the Football League, followed by a promotion onto the Premier League list for the inaugural campaign of the new era. However, it would be another eight years before he took charge of a top-flight game.

The match was unremarkable in December 2000. Nine days before Christmas, Malcolm Christie scored the only goal after nine minutes as Derby County beat Coventry City 1-0 at Pride Park. This match was the first of 85 Premier League matches that Matt took control of. He showed six red cards in total.

33% of these dismissals came in the same match. Fulham’s Rufus Brevett and Steve Marlet both saw red as they lost their discipline in a goalless draw with Birmingham City in November 2002. Messias’ most famous Premier League moment would come a year later and Birmingham were right at the centre of it.

Steve Bruce’s side travelled to Tyneside to play Newcastle United. The match was in its early stages when play was stopped and Birmingham’s Robbie Savage was on the ground. He was clutching his face. Only replays revealed later that Messias had accidentally elbowed Savage in the face as the midfielder went to run past him but was struck by a flying arm!

Three years after the incident, he told the Yorkshire Post: “I was putting my arm out for a free-kick and caught Savage, who crumpled in a heap. He needed smelling salts and when he got up he pretended to show me the red card. Funnily enough, (Newcastle striker) Alan Shearer came up to me and said, ‘We have been wanting to do that for years!’

Although he was a capable referee, Messias missed out on the majority of the top events. His biggest engagement was representing England at the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Championships in Germany, taking charge of two group matches and a semi-final between Sweden and Serbia & Montenegro. He wasn’t lucky enough to referee the FA Cup final, although he was fourth official for Jeff Winter when Manchester United defeated Millwall in 2004.

His dream was to referee at the World Cup finals but those hopes were dashed when Graham Poll was selected ahead of him for the 2006 finals in Germany. This zapped his motivation and in January 2006, the PGMOL announced that Messias would retire from the Select Group. He later admitted that professional referees are under a lot of pressure and you “learn to deal with it – to control the controllable.”

His experience though has helped in his future. Matt had set-up a business which offered help in coping with stressful occupations using his own experiences to make this a success. He did stay in the game and helped mentor a local referee from Barnsley, Ryan Newman. Newman has made the Vanarama National League list thanks to the help of Messias.

In 2008, he decided to move to New Zealand for six years and resumed his teaching career in Auckland, teaching PE, doing coaching for a girls’ football team and become a deputy principal in Howick College. In July 2014, Messias returned to the UK to take up a position at the Atrium Studio School in Devon as a foundation principal.

Matt Messias has demonstrated that there is a life after refereeing in the world’s most envied league. He was one of the most under-rated refs during his time and was unfortunate not to get slightly better breaks.